Global sustainable development

Sustainability impacts all of us. It will ensure a good quality of life for people in the northern and southern hemispheres, both today and in the future. Sustainable development is a pressing social challenge and one that is becoming more and more relevant. It takes motivated and committed people with in-depth knowledge and expertise to cope with the challenges facing humanity.


The term “sustainable development” (SD) has been used since the World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission) published its report in 1987 as a general guide for global social development. In its report, “Our Common Future”, the Brundtland Commission defined SD as a form of development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the capacity of future generations to address their own needs. This definition of SD is based on two basic concepts: the need to make sure the basic requirements of all humans on the planet are covered and; the view that there is a limit to how much the global ecosystem can sustain.
Sustainable development is often depicted as three circles, representing the three environmental, economic and social dimensions, also including spatial (north-south) and temporal (the current and future generations) dimensions.

The three dimensions of sustainability


Targets and routes to sustainable development

The 2030 Agenda: the 17 Sustainable Global Development Goals (SDGs)
On 25 September 2015, 193 UN member states adopted the 2030 Agenda. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda. They take a balanced approach to tackle the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development and, for the first time, combine measures to combat poverty and promote sustainable development in the same agenda. The SDGs are to be achieved globally and by all UN member states by 2030. This means that all nations are being urged to solve the world’s most pressing challenges together. Switzerland has also signed up to implement the goals on a national level.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals at a glance

Current development is not sustainable

In New York in September 2019, an independent expert group presented the First Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR). The GSDR was commissioned on behalf of all UN member states to detail the progress made in the implementation of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda. The report clearly shows that the current development model is not sustainable and that even the progress achieved in the last two decades is under threat because of increasing social inequality and environmental damage. Therefore, new and innovative ideas and approaches are needed to kick-start the transformation process that will provide for more sustainable development.